How the millennial mindset is driving tourism in Kansas City

Clayton Reid, MMGY Global CEO, explains his company’s partnership with VisitKC and how the two are working together to grow Kansas City’s tourism industry. Photo credit: Wheat Photography

Clayton Reid, MMGY Global CEO, explains his company’s partnership with VisitKC and how the two are working together to grow Kansas City’s tourism industry. Photo credit: Wheat Photography

The tourism industry in Kansas City annually infuses billions of dollars into the local economy – and that investment is steadily increasing. This industry alone accounts for more than 46,000 local jobs, $5.1 billion in annual economic impact, and 24 million visitors a year. This is revenue that directly helps Kansas City households save more than $550 a year.

As a direct result of VisitKC’s efforts under new leadership, Kansas City’s profile is rising across the country, evident in the unprecedented wave of national media coverage and new visitors from around the globe. Now, VisitKC has teamed up with MMGY Global, a Kansas City-based advertising agency and the world’s largest integrated marketing firm specializing in travel. Together, the two are combining cutting edge research and a talented marketing team to deploy a strategic campaign to capitalize on Kansas City’s growing momentum.

But there’s a new generation of traveler that’s shaking up the tourism industry in ways never seen before. Not only is the millennial generation traveling in new and often unexplainable ways, but they’re influencing other generations to adopt similar habits as well. It’s a phenomenon MMGY Global calls the “Millennial mindset.”

“A new class of traveler is changing the way we all approach tourism marketing: the millennial. Their habits and priorities are different, and their spending power is something like we’ve seen never before, to the tune of $2.5 trillion in 2015,” VisitKC President and CEO Ronnie Burke said at the organization’s annual luncheon last week. “How can we embrace this audience? We went to the source and asked Kansas City’s best and brightest millennials to tell us how.”

Here’s a glimpse at MMGY’s research on the trends this cohort is driving.

Kevin Pistilli, 2016 Chairman of the VisitKC Board of Directors; Brenda Tinnen, senior vice president and general manager of Sprint Center/AEG; and Ronnie Burke, president and CEO of VisitKC. Photo credit: Wheat Photography

Kevin Pistilli, 2016 Chairman of the VisitKC Board of Directors; Brenda Tinnen, senior vice president and general manager of Sprint Center/AEG; and Ronnie Burke, president and CEO of VisitKC. Photo credit: Wheat Photography

Authentic experiences

Influenced by life events like 9/11 and the recession, this group is more concerned with collecting memories than possessions. The millennial generation wants an authentic experience, so more than any other group, they’re using brick-and-mortar travel agents to find small towns and places off the beaten path.

This theme of authenticity is also the driving factor behind the rise in “VRBO” shared lodging and accommodations services. In fact, Air BnB has a market cap that far exceeds Marriott Hotels.

The great news for Kansas City is that this cohort is seeking experiences that our city readily offers: historical sites, museums, fine dining, theme parks, shopping, notable architecture, and nightlife and entertainment.

Anytime, anywhere, anyone

The first thing Millennials do when they wake up and the last thing they do before they go to sleep is check their phones. This generation wants to constantly be connected. In fact, in workplaces that don’t allow workers to connect socially online, productivity suffers. Millennials feel disrupted, stressed out, and isolated. To this group, social behavior is unabashed; They will share everything they do online and want to feel constantly connected, wherever they are.

“Tourism revenues save our city millions and we put that money to work: paving streets, hiring police officers, powering a brand new streetcar,” Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner said. “It all starts with a single visit. These visitors may become our next resident or business owner. They’ll send their kids to our schools and they’ll become engaged in local issues.” Photo credit: Wheat Photography

“Tourism revenues save our city millions and we put that money to work: paving streets, hiring police officers, powering a brand new streetcar,” Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner said. “It all starts with a single visit. These visitors may become our next resident or business owner. They’ll send their kids to our schools and they’ll become engaged in local issues.” Photo credit: Wheat Photography

Influencing other generations

Millennials have such an influential mindset in fact, that they’re influencing the way other groups travel as well. Older travelers used shared car services at three times the rate last year than they did the previous year.

It’s important to remember that this is a mindset that other generations are adopting. The baby boomer generation is younger and more active than it was a decade ago. And that’s a group that has a lot of disposable income with a growing amount of discretionary time and money.

MMGY Global President and CEO Clayton Reid stressed the importance of the tourism, being that it’s one of the biggest industries in the U.S. on a GDP basis. He says that by identifying and understanding the millennial mindset, Kansas City stands to profit.

Reid says development is driving the energy and exciting atmosphere, and that Kansas City needs to continue to take risks and stay progressive.

“We are seeing an unprecedented level of development, which takes calculated risks. We’re seeing product and attitude emerge in this community. We’re seeing young people move into this community and create a vibe we’ve never had before. And we’re in a great position to take every advantage of that,” he said.